Thursday, July 16, 2015

You Can't Say You Can't Play

In University I read a book called, "You Can't Say You Can't Play."  It was about a teacher who tells the children they can not exclude other children from their play.  The teacher has several conversations with children of different ages about what fair really means and the impact of being told you can not play.  They explored how being told you can't play affected their self esteem, self concept, hurt their feelings, caused humiliation, etc.  Not surprising, when a child is told they can not play it hurts....a lot.

Fast forward many years to this past Sunday at IKEA.  Finally, Zoe and Ailsa are both tall enough to fit the IKEA criteria for playing in the ball pit.  Both girls are excited and ready to go, but wait- first the girl working the counter says Zoe needs to be measured, she is hoping Zoe is too short to come in.  But alas, no the child is tall enough but...a-ha- here is a way to get out of this- the child can not walk on her own!  Yeah, brilliant!  Thank god there is an obvious reason for not allowing this child to play.  This way the girl can discriminate without stating the obvious "we don't want children with disabilities playing in here. She can't play in here because she is different."

Ailsa goes in to play after crying about not being able to play with Zoe.  We encourage her to have fun anyway.  Zoe looks sad and signs, "Ailsa" repeatedly while we try to explain how this is ok when it is not ok.  Not ok at all.  They won't even let Zoe roll around in the ball pit while we watch.

"It's a safety concern, we have to be fair to all the children" meaning all "normal" children.  "What if the other children started jumping on your daughter?  We could not intervene."


That is the best you can come up with?  So if Ailsa slips, hits her head and then falls to the floor and the other children start to jump on her, your four staff who are huddled in the corner chatting will just stand by and watch?

"During an evacuation staff are not allowed to carry children out."  Clearly they are incapable of picking up one child in the event of this impending crisis/ evacuation that is imminent.  Even though we would be standing RIGHT THERE it would still not be safe.  God help the child who is not listening and gets left behind in the burning building because IKEA staff ARE NOT allowed to pick up children.

"Would it be fair for your other daughter to have to look after her sister like that?"  Meaning what?  If a bunch of children jump Zoe we have the unfair high expectations as parents that Ailsa would alert adults to intervene???  Or are they suggesting we think Ailsa will carry Zoe out during the evacuation that is NOT HAPPENING!  AND DID I MENTION WE ARE STANDING RIGHT THERE.

So, here we are- 2015 and they say Zoe can't play.

And I am pissed.

And Sad.

And so fucking angry.

But I have to suck that back.  Help you focus on something else.  And let your sister have fun in the play space carved out for people like her- people who can walk.

The sign on the wall says, "Smaland means small land.  A land for small, but very important people.  Children.  Your children."

But I guess that does not mean all your children, certainly not those with physical disabilities because really is it fair to ruin it for all those other children just trying to have fun?  Apparently Zoe playing at the same time somehow will ruin it for everyone else.  Not sure why that is...

This is not a fight I have energy  But some day, they will get my angry letter and some day the world will change because of people like me advocating for people who can not advocate for themselves.

Some day other moms hearts will not need to break.

Some day a chid who can't walk will be told 'yes' instead of 'no'.

And some day I will not have to look in my children's eyes as they look to me to explain a rule that is blatantly unfair- even a 4 year old can see this.

All of these hopes for some day.

One small hope for today- that the staff we spoke with (make no mistake- we spoke to not just one but two different managers!) will stop for a minute, just one minute, and think about this.  Because really, is this the way IKEA wants to be seen?

Shame on you IKEA.